Forestry News

As a VFA member, you're kept up to date with forestry news through our e-newsletter What's Happening in Virginia Forestry Today.  See some articles from our most recent issue below:

   What's Happening in Virginia Forestry Today?

August 30, 2017

In This Issue...

What's Happening at VFA?

Virginia News and Updates

Virginia Department of Forestry Employees to Assist with Hurricane Harvey Aftermath

Senator Warner Visits with Forestry and Agriculture Representatives in Catawba

Virginia's Gubernatorial Candidates Focus on Agriculture and Forestry Industries

“Good Neighbor” Agreement Enables VDOF and USFS to Work Together

Federal News and Updates

Tony Tooke Named Chief of the Forest Service After Tom Tidwell Announces Retirement

Softwood Lumber Imports

Tax Reform

Greenhouse Gas Regulation

Air Reform

BTU Act

VFA Advocates for Member Interests

VFA Submits Comments on Proposed Rescission of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule

VFA Signs on to Letter in Support of Strong Investment Rules and Enforcement in NAFTA Modernization

VFA Signs Letter to House and Senate Transportation Committees Regarding CSX Railroad Issues

VFA Signs Onto Letter Asking EPA to Reconsider New Ozone Regulations

Partner News

FRA Revises Timber Harvesting Safety Manual

International Forest Company to Co-Host Forest inSight Conference in Wilmington

Sidebar items:

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Contribute to the Virginia Forest Resources PAC Online


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Looking for a way to promote your company/organization while supporting your association? Have a special story you'd like to share with other VFA members? You can do so here! Choose between a feature article or simple advertisement. Your logo and additional information will appear here. See our Support Us page for additional information. 

Contribute to the Virginia Forest Resources PAC Online

Influencing public policy is a tough assignment, especially when it comes to our forests. The new Virginia Forest Resources Political Action Committee (VaForest PAC) provides a means to educate our policy makers on the importance of forestry to Virginia and gives financial assistance to candidates who recognize and support forestry interests.  You can now contribute to the PAC online by clicking here.


Advertise in the 2017-2018 VFA Membership Directory

We invite you to advertise in our annual Membership Directory. This publication serves as a valuable resource for everyone within the Virginia forestry community looking for products, services and information, or trying to locate any of VFA's 1,200 members, other forestry contacts or government officials.

Advertising in the directory is an important way to be involved with VFA and to be supportive of our diverse membership as we promote both a healthy forest environment and a strong forest-products business environment for the benefit of all Virginians.  Click here to learn more.

 

What's Happening at VFA?

Back to school time is busy for everyone and the staff, officers, directors, and volunteers of VFA are certainly no exception!  Take a look at what we’ve been up to:
  • The Virginia Forest Resources PAC (VaForest PAC) has continued to support several campaigns for General Assembly office and Executive Director Paul Howe and Board members have continued to attend campaign events to keep legislators up to date on forestry topics. Click here to support the VAForest PAC with an online donation.
  • Paul attended a meeting of state partners and stakeholders to discuss proposed strategies for addressing timber theft.
  • VFA's Membership Committee met to discuss member recruitment strategies.
  • Paul attended a tour of the 2018 General Assembly offices.  He says legislators and lobbyists will be a bit lost, like everyone else, in the temporary GA home.
  • VFA's Executive Committee met by conference call to approve next steps in VFA's branding project.
  • VFA sponsored and Paul attended the Virginia Loggers Association annual meeting held at the Inn at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.  Pictured below: Paul visits with legislators during VLA's annual reception. Top: Paul with Delegate Terry Austin and his wife Kathy, bottom: Paul with Senator Jill Vogel.
  • Paul also attended a meeting of the Board of Forestry in Blacksburg.
  • VFA’s Branding & Marketing Task Force has met several times in person and by conference call to review branding project goals and select a public relations agency to assist with the project.
  • The Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation Board of Directors met in early August at Morgan Lumber Company in Red Oak.  The Foundation is currently seeking applications for small grants complimenting the educational objectives of the Foundation.  If you're interested in learning more, contact VFA's Leisa Weatherford, Secretary for the Foundation.
  • Paul participated in a VIRGINIAforever strategy session to plan legislative work related to conservation funding.
  • Paul and Deputy Executive Director Shannon McCabe attended the National Council of Forestry Association Executives annual meeting in Annapolis, Maryland in late July. They enjoyed meeting with and speaking to other forestry association leaders from around the country. Pictured below: Paul with long-time colleague and friend Ron Hufford, Texas Forestry Association Executive Director, retiring after 33 years in the role.

Virginia News and Updates

Virginia Department of Forestry Employees to Assist with Hurricane Harvey Aftermath

The Virginia Department of Forestry has sent 20 people to assist FEMA in Texas.  "Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc in Texas,” said State Forester of Virginia Bettina Ring. “Because of our expertise in all-hazard response, the Texas A & M Forest Service requested the assistance of the Virginia Department of Forestry.”

The team left Monday afternoon to drive to Houston and is expected to be in Texas for two weeks. "Right now, the VDOF incident management team is slated to coordinate resource staging areas across a multi-county area," said VDOF Director of Fire and Emergency Response John Miller. "These areas will supply water, ice and MREs (meals ready to eat) throughout the affected region of Texas."

Our thoughts are with all of those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and we extend our gratitude and wishes for safety to these and all relief workers.


Senator Warner Visits with Forestry and Agriculture Representatives in Catawba

On August 14, Senator Mark Warner and his staff visited with farmers, foresters and forest landowners from across Virginia. VFA members Tom Newbill, Montmorenci Tree Farms and Mark Haddix, Farm Credit of the Virginias joined President John Hancock and Executive Director Paul Howe at the event. Newbill provided comments on behalf of forest landowners, speaking specifically about the Farm Bill and the Timber Innovation Act.  Haddix also provided comments, speaking about markets for mill residuals among other issues.  Trade, invasive species, H-2B, and health care were among other hot topics discussed during the event.    


Tom Newbill speaks with Senator Warner during the event.

Virginia's Gubernatorial Candidates Focus on Agriculture and Forestry Industries

Both major party gubernatorial candidates, Ed Gillespie (R) and Ralph Northam (D) have released plans focusing on Virginia's agriculture and forestry industries. View Gillespie's agriculture and forestry agenda at this link. View Northam's agriculture and forestry policy plan at this link. In late July, both candidates discussed issues in their plans at the Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Gubernatorial Candidate Forum in Roanoke hosted by VFA in partnership with the Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Agribusiness Council, and Virginia Forest Products Association. More than 150 industry members participated in the forum.  If you missed it, you can check out videos streamed from the event on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation's Facebook page.

“Good Neighbor” Agreement Enables VDOF and USFS to Work Together

The USDA Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) have signed a Good Neighbor Authority master agreement that provides a framework for cooperative efforts that enhance national forestlands and their watersheds.  With this agreement, the two agencies will now partner to address some of the most pressing environmental concerns facing the national forestlands in Virginia.  Authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, the Good Neighbor Agreement allows the federal and state agencies to work together to treat insect- and disease-infected trees; reduce hazardous fuels to lessen the risk of wildfires, and conduct other activities that will restore or improve the forestland and corresponding watershed, to include fish and wildlife habitat.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” said State Forester of Virginia Bettina Ring.  “By combining forces and being intentional about the work that needs to be done, we can make truly substantive improvements to the national forests for the benefit of all Virginians.”  Forest Service Supervisor Joby Timm said, “By enhancing the partnership between the National Forest and the Commonwealth of Virginia, we can expand capabilities and opportunities to achieve conservation goals on all lands: federal, state, county and private.  I am looking forward to working even more closely with the VDOF on a variety of conservation projects.”

State Forester Bettina Ring and Forest Supervisor Joby Timm

Federal News and Updates

Tony Tooke Named Chief of the Forest Service After Tom Tidwell Announces Retirement

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last week that Tony Tooke would be the next Chief of the Forest Service, taking over from Tom Tidwell, who recently announced his retirement. Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18 and currently is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued this statement:

“The Forest Service will be in good hands with the U.S. Forest Service’s own Tony Tooke whose knowledge of forestry is unmatched. Tony will oversee efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs. His focus will be on ensuring we are good neighbors and are managing our forests effectively, efficiently, and responsibly, as well as working with states and local governments to ensure the utmost collaboration. No doubt, the stewardship of our forests is an awesome and sacred responsibility, and no one knows that better than Tony who has dedicated his career to this noble cause,” said Secretary Perdue.  See the full UDSA press release here.


 VFA works closely with our national and regional partners to monitor and act upon issues of concern to members at the federal level. Following is a compilation of federal government reports issued by our friends at the American Forest & Paper AssociationForest Resources AssociationHardwood FederationNational Alliance of Forest Owners, and Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association.

Softwood Lumber Imports

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce has postponed the final determinations in the antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of imports of softwood lumber from Canada until no later than November 14, 2017.

“I remain hopeful that we can reach a negotiated solution that satisfies the concerns of all parties,” said Secretary Ross. “This extension could provide the time needed to address the complex issues at hand and to reach an equitable and durable suspension agreement.”

Given the complexity of these investigations and ongoing discussions between the Governments of the United States and Canada focusing on a durable solution to this long-standing trade dispute, the final determinations in these investigations have been postponed. As a result, the deadline to issue the final determinations will be announced no later than November 14, 2017. Under U.S. law, Commerce may postpone an AD final determination for a total of 135 days after the publication of the AD preliminary determination. Further, because the CVD investigation has been aligned with the AD investigation, that final determination will also be announced no later than November 14, 2017.


Tax Reform

On July 27th the ""Big Six" - a group of Republican leaders made up of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn - released a joint statement on tax reform. The group has been meeting for several months to work out a unified path forward on comprehensive tax reform - an objective not realized since 1986. The statement outlines a commitment to "make taxes simpler, fairer, and lower for hard-working American families...lower tax rates for small businesses so they can compete with larger ones, and lower rates for all American businesses so they can compete with foreign ones." This entails "unprecedented capital expensing" and international tax rules to encourage bringing back jobs and profits from overseas - with a notable absence of a contentious border adjustment tax that had been floated in previous blueprints.

Plans are for a so-called “unified plan” to be unveiled sometime after the August Congressional recess and this formal statement set the marker for those plans.     The primary driver behind tax reform efforts is the current corporate tax rate, which is the highest among nations with which the U.S. trades and competes.  

Other issues include estate tax repeal, protecting independent contractor status and maintaining tax incentives currently in the code for working forests.

The Hill published a tax policy op-ed by NAFO President & CEO Dave Tenny, who makes the case for maintaining the timberland tax provisions ahead of what is expected to be a heated debate around tax reform this Fall. Please forward and share the article as the better it performs online, the more likely it is to reach key decision makers.

Greenhouse Gas Regulation

The D.C. Circuit has issued an order continuing to hold the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) litigation over existing sources in abeyance for 60 days. The order, issued August 8, directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide status reports to the Court every 30 days. A concurring opinion issued by two judges reminded EPA it has an obligation to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) pursuant to its endangerment finding; that obligation was also confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  This newest order supports press reports that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt intends to repeal the CPP and issue a new proposed rule that will more narrowly regulate GHGs from existing utilities by only regulating “within the fence line,” (e.g., setting efficiency standards for the power plants). The CPP remains stayed until the conclusion of any Supreme Court litigation over the rule.

Additionally, on August 10, the D.C. Circuit issued an order continuing to hold the litigation over the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for new and modified sources in abeyance, and ordered the EPA to file status reports every 90 days and the parties to file motions to govern future proceedings within 30 days of conclusion of EPA’s proceedings. In contrast to the CPP, the NSPS rule has not been stayed and remains in effect as the Administration’s reconsideration moves forward. 

Air Reform

With the slow pace of political appointments, the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) met with the career staff acting head of EPA’s Air Office to reinforce our fifty suggestions for regulatory improvements on air and permit streamlining.  VFA is a member of AF&PA.

We were encouraged to learn work has already began at the Agency to streamline the permitting program, which is currently a barrier to investment. We were also informed that while key priorities are not listed in the recent Regulatory Agenda, work on other top issues such as the Boiler MACT remand are moving forward.

AF&PA and the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) also met recently with political staff on plans to address the Appropriations legislative direction on carbon neutrality and learned that action on this issue remains a top priority for the Administration.


BTU Act 

As reported by the Hardwood Federation, legislation (S. 1480/H.R. 3161) was introduced in the House and Senate that seeks to address our sector's burgeoning residuals problem.   The bill, the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2017, would qualify high efficient biomass heating systems for renewable energy investment tax credits that other renewables like geothermal and solar thermal already enjoy.   The concept behind the bill is it would promote wider scale adoption of these heating systems in the residential and commercial sectors.  Since these systems are fueled by wood pellets or wood chips, enactment of this legislation would ultimately promote more sustainable demand for the sawdust and chips generated at our mills.

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) are the champions in the Senate, while Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Peter Welch (D-VT) are leading the bill in the house.

Specifically, the BTU Act would:

- Underscore that heat from biomass is an underutilized energy source in the United States

- Add biomass fuel property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the residential renewable energy investment tax credit. To qualify, the biomass fuel property must operate at a thermal efficiency rate of at least 75 percent and be used to either heat space within the dwelling or heat water

- Add open-loop biomass heating property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the commercial renewable energy investment tax credit in the federal tax code. Qualifying biomass heating property must operate at thermal output efficiencies of at least 65 percent and be used to generate heat, hot water, steam, or industrial process heat. The credit would be two tiered: for technologies that operate at thermal output efficiencies between 65 and 80 percent, the investment tax credit is limited to 15 percent of installed capital cost. Technologies operating at thermal output efficiencies greater than 80 percent would be eligible for the full 30 percent investment tax credit.

By offering tax incentives, the legislation would encourage people and businesses to upgrade away from oil boilers to efficient wood-pellet boilers.


VFA Advocates for Member Interests

VFA Submits Comments on Proposed Rescission of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule

The July 27th Federal Register included the Administration’s proposal to rescind the WOTUS rule and recodify in the Code of Federal Regulations the regulations that existed before the rule was promulgated. VFA joined several federal forestry organizations and other partners in submitting comments in support of this proposal.As stated in VFA's letter to the EPA: "We wholeheartedly support the Agencies' proposal to rescind the Clean Water Rule: Definition of "Waters of the United States," and recodify the status quo that is now being implemented under the Sixth Circuit stay of the 2015 Rule.  The Agencies should rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule because the 2015 Rule's provisions are, in various respects, beyond the Agencies' statutory authority, inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, and contrary to the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA), including the Act's goal to "recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution."  33 U.S.C. § 1251(b).  The Agencies failure to seek meaningful input from state and local entities during the development of the 2015 Rule contributed to the rule's legal flaws and lack of clarity."

The EPA recently extended the comment period for an additional 30 days, making the new submission deadline September 27, 2017 for those wishing to submit comments on behalf of your own organization.


VFA Signs on to Letter in Support of Strong Investment Rules and Enforcement in NAFTA Modernization

VFA has signed on to a joint letter, along with state partner Virginia FREE, in support of maintaining and upgrading investment and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), as part of the negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

ISDS enforcement is a core element to protect the United States against the theft, discrimination and unfair treatment of U.S. property overseas. The NAFTA modernization negotiations provide an important opportunity not just to maintain these rules, but also to:

  - Ensure intellectual property is fully protected as in the United States as a protected investment;

  - Guarantee all sectors are afforded the same protections and access to ISDS to enforce those protections;

  - Improve U.S. investment access in Canada and Mexico on a non-discriminatory basis, including by locking in reforms that have opened markets since NAFTA was negotiated;

  - Add stronger disciplines against forced technology transfers and localization;

  - Expand access to ISDS enforcement for breaches of major investment contracts; and,

  - Extend the enforcement period to at least ten years after any potential termination of the agreement, to ensure that American investment is appropriately and fully protected.


VFA Signs Letter to House and Senate Transportation Committees Regarding CSX Railroad Issues

VFA joined with dozens of other trade associations, collectively known as the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC), in sending a letter to the House and Senate Transportation Committees regarding issues with CSX rail service. As reported by our friends at the Southern Lumber Manufacturers Association, the letter, available here, outlines issues that have negatively impacted numerous industries, such as cars not being picked up or delivered as scheduled. In addition to the RCC's letter, the Agricultural Transportation Working Group wrote a letter (available here) to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) asking that the Board take action to address the CSX service issues that are impacting agribusiness. 

In response to these complaints by various industry groups, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has decided to hold a Public Listening Session at which CSX will talk about its work to improve service for rail customers. Stakeholders will also be given an opportunity to speak about the issues they have faced in recent months regarding CSX. The Session will be held at the STB's office in Washington, DC on September 12, 2017, beginning at 9:30 AM. Members of the public that are interested in speaking at the Session must register by September 7, 2017. Click here for more information.


VFA Signs Onto Letter Asking EPA to Reconsider New Ozone Regulations

VFA has signed onto a letter prepared by our friends at the Virginia Petroleum Council asking the EPA to reconsider their stringent new ozone regulations, which would increase regulatory burdens on businesses around the state.

Implementing the proposed new NAAQS/ozone standards will immediately cause many parts of the state that are in attainment with the current ozone standard to be reclassified as non-attainment areas, even in rural localities - automatically increasing operating costs, recordkeeping requirements, and triggering increased regulatory burdens like permitting delays and restrictions on expansions. If designated “non-attainment” areas, those communities must impose costly ozone reduction and maintenance plans, even after coming back into attainment.


Partner News

FRA Revises Timber Harvesting Safety Manual

VFA national partner the Forest Resources Association’s (FRA) Southwide Safety Committee has updated one of FRA’s most in-demand publications, the Timber Harvesting Safety Manual. This well-known resource includes a new section on in-woods portable grinder safety as well as additional miscellaneous safety recommendations and revised OSHA-required reporting procedures for fatalities and serious injuries.

This manual (FRA publication # 17-A-1) is an ideal general safety text for logger training and education programs. Additionally, logging contractors may use the material for their in-house loss control programs and may choose to incorporate the FRA Timber Harvesting Safety Manual into their written safety compliance policy for their logging and log trucking employees.

The manual price is $6.00 for FRA members and $12.00 for non-members.  Visit the following link to order: https://forestresources.org/resources/publications/item/806-timber-harvesting-safety-17-A-1


International Forest Company to Co-Host Forest inSight Conference in Wilmington

International Forest Company along with the Forest Landowners Association and Dougherty & Dougherty will host the Forest inSight Conference October 24-25, 2017 in Wilmington, NC. The conference will focus on silvicultural decisions and financial analysis for forest landowners.  Learn more and register at http://forestinsightconf.com/east/


For more information on forestry news or other legislative items, and if you have any questions about VFA's representation of forestry interests at the General Assembly, please contact Executive Director Paul Howe.

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Virginia Forestry Association

3808 Augusta Ave.

Richmond, VA 23230

804-278-8733

vfa@vaforestry.org

www.vaforestry.org